The Good Thief

on April 02, 2003 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
It's unusual for a name director like Neil Jordan (“The End of the Affair,” "The Crying Game") to remake a movie, much less a revered classic like the 1955 French crime drama "Bob Le Flambeur." However, from virtually the first second, Jordan draws you into his exotic, clever film, which updates the original with details revolving around sexual identity and current politics, but remains faithful to "Bob Le Flambeur's" main story and tone. That's not to say that "The Good Thief" is a simple copy of the French film. It brings its own quirky personality to the table even as it sticks to "Bob Le Flambeur's" tale of a group of likable thieves who hatch a daring plan to knock over a casino. Nick Nolte is letter-perfect as the hard-living Bob Montagnet, an expatriate American, junkie and gambler who's hit rock bottom and needs a big score to stay alive. As he assembles a crew and devises a plot to steal millions, an evocative portrait of Bob's world emerges, replete with gallantry, intrigue and villainy, in equal measure.

Jordan pulls out all the stylistic stops--jump cuts, quick freezes- but those tricks don't detract from the story. In fact, they function as clues to its changing pattern and nature. "The Good Thief" is a droll movie, too--never moreso than in Bob's adversarial relationship with his French cop friend/nemesis, gamely played by Tcheky Karyo as the Claude Rains to Nolte's Bogart. The other side of Bob is exemplified by his tender romance with the young Anne (Nutsa Kukhianidze), whom he has rescued from a pimp. As a smart, Americanized but troubled young girl, Kukhianidze (“27 Missing Kisses”) is a real find.

Beautifully photographed by Chris Menges, "The Good Thief" moves quickly, surprises with its plot twists and offers the audience a great time. As heist movies--and remakes--go, it's a standout. Starring Nick Nolte, Tcheky Karyo, Said Taghmaoui, Nutsa Kukhianidze, Gerard Darmon and Emir Kusturica. Directed and written by Neil Jordan. Produced by Stephen Woolley, John Wells and Seaton McLean. A Fox Searchlight release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 109 min. Opens 3/12/03.

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